What is it about?

The rollercoaster adventures of parenting three kids, dealing with disability and mental health - and discussing disability discrimination and how to tackle it.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Have Wheels, will Attract Comments

We're taken Boo Boo out in her wheelchair a few times now, to the shops and to the park.

Mostly, people stare in wonderment at such a small child driving a mechanical device. I admit, she's tiny. And she's totally in control. it is awe-inspiring.

Quite a few people think she's cute, especially if she drives over to people's tables in a cafe to check out the food they have on their tables. She will smile one of her big grins at them , pointing and saying "yummy". A bit like a big eyed puppy dog that comes begging to your table.

Other kids are fascinated and find it hard to keep their fingers off the wheelchair. The joystick especially is very hard to resist for many kids. I don't mind too much if other kids touch it - Boo Boo is quite happy for them to have a feel. I think she enjoys being the centre of attention. If they fiddle with it too long, she sweeps their hands away and says loudly "bye bye". She' s perfectly capable of telling other kids when it's enough. Most of the parents, though, are mortified their kids touch the wheelchair. Probably fear it's contagious.

Mind you, if any adult dared touch her wheelchair controls like someone did with Moo over at Terrible Palsy, I will probably lynch them!

And of course, the stupid comments have started.

A favorite seems to be "what's wrong with her?". This one generally comes with some good old fashioned staring first before they pluck up the courage to come over and comment. My standard answer so far to this questions is "Nothing". This confuses people no end. Then they go "oh, but i mean, why does she need a wheelchair?" On my braver days, I simply answer "for the same reasons people need glasses". What is it with people, why do they feel the need to know our entire medical history. I'm not asking after their hemorrhoids, so why do they need to know a diagnosis?

Or how about this conversation:

- Hmm. Nice.
polite smile from me.
- How much does it cost?
- Seventeen thousand dollars.
- Whoa. That's expensive. Where did you buy it?
- Northcott Disability Services.
- Oh.
- Yes. It's not a toy
- Oh. Not a toy. Oh. It's very expensive.
- Yeah.

One of the best responses so far was from a pimply youth who works at a games shop in a nearby shopping centre. He watched Boo Boo flawlessly manoeuvre in a tight spot, her hand loosely on her joystick. Then he turned to me in awe and said "Man, she's going to be deadly with the games when she grows up". Yeah! I think she will.


anita said...

Ja, Mother of BooBoo!
Sie weiss schon sich zu wehren und zu behaupten. Sie wird es schon lernen, das Schaetzchen.
Tante Anita

Emma said...

I love the people who make comments but who make cool ones like the guy in the game shop - that sort of thing I can cope with and is fun! But as for people touching the wheelchair, someone let their toddler (who I think can't have been too much more than one) use my wheelchair to pull themselves up with on Saturday. Yuck. Love seeing the pictures of Boo Boo in her chair.

Dianne said...

That comment from the 'pimply youth' was awesome. How fantastic that his first thought had NOTHING to do with disability.

I think it's fabulous that Boo Boo has mastered her chair so quickly and that it's empowered her so much. It must be so great watching her new found mobility to explore.

We get our fair share of comments when out with BC in his walking frame - most commonly "Can he walk without it?", "Will he ever get use of his legs?" and of course THAT question "What's wrong with him?". I used to answer that question honestly, but realised how intrusive their question was one day and also how 'wrong' the question is. These days I also tell them there's nothing wrong with him. I've come to enjoy that moment of confusion then that light bulb moment when (sometimes!) they realise that question could be offensive.

Worst of all though I think are those that don't ask any questions at all but make some aside comment like 'Oh that poor kid', 'Oh what a pity' and then there's the woman who completely floored me by patting me on the arm one day as BC (in his walker) and Bean (2.5 years younger and on his own) were racing around a shopping mall, laughing. She smiled and said 'Never mind, at least one of them is OK'...